Art and religion are, then, two roads by which men escape from circumstance to ecstacy.

– Clive Bell-

Art and religion went hand-in-hand for the last thousands years, the greatest masterpieces of art were strongly connected to religions. One might say that where religion becomes artificial, it is reserved for art to save the spirit of religion by recognising the figurative value of the mythic symbols which the former would have us believe in their literal sense, and revealing their deep and hidden truth through an ideal presentation, as Wagner said. Using religious inspiration and motifs often intended to uplift the mind to the spiritual. Sacred art involves the ritual and cultic practices and practical and operative aspects of the path of the spiritual realization within the artist’s religious tradition.

The Great Hymn to the Aten from the Amarna period of Egypt or the Song of Songs from the Bible; the Nike of Samothrace or Venus de Milo; the Kinkaku-ji, the  “Temple of the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto; the paintings of  the Madonna of the Rocks by Leonardo;  the Blue Mosque in Istanbul all are outstanding pieces of art and art history. But in the times of their creation (or even until nowadays) they were (and they are) something much more than a beautiful piece of artwork for a lot of people, as they meant to be the connection to the godly, spiritual word or afterlife.

The main goal of this workshop is to discuss several aspects of the relation between religions and different form of arts. Where is the “place” of the art in different religions, how they think about it, how this relationship differ with various religions? What were the historical, political circumstances and reasons for the born of some famous artistic movements or art pieces?  What is the relationship between religious propaganda and art? The workshop is also open to deal with more actual questions, related not only to history but also heritage and heritagisation, like how happened the secularization and reinterpretation of the religious artworks, places etc…? Through the history of institutions, the birth of the largest collections and museums of the world we can discuss how the once sacred or religion related “objects” lost their religious connotations and meanings and landed in museums, behind shiny glass show-cases free for our curious, consumer eyes? How can we interpret the Buddha statue in the upper floor of the British Museum or the never-ending rooms in the Louvre filled with altarpieces or the yearly more than 2 million tourist in Ankor Wat?

The workshop encourages a wide range of contributions from various disciplines – social and cultural history, urban history, anthropology, archaeology, museology, art history, history of religion and so on – which focus on the questions of complex relationship of art and religions.

The workshop  will start with short a discussion about the texts and articles given out in advance and after that all participants will hold a short, 10-15 minutes presentation based on case studies (we kindly encourage everyone to make a PPT or a Prezi) followed by a roundtable discussion to summarize the topic.

Workshop-leader: Dorottya Bartha (ISHA Budapest)